By CALIESHA COMLEY
It is easiest to shove horrific images of child sex slavery far from our thoughts and lives. For those who are aware of the phenomena of sex trafficking youth, it is also easy to place those images in the international context, or recognize it as a crime of distant countries, such as in Asia or Latin America. Libby Spears’ film “Playground” brings such images to the big screen in America, warning that participation in the child sex trade is thriving in the viewers’ backyard.
While traveling in the Philippines in 2001, filmmaker Libby Spears uncovered the atrocious practice of human sex trafficking and that most victims of this form of slavery were children. Further research in South Korea and Thailand revealed even more trafficking routes. It was at these locations that Spears was able to investigate brothels and conduct interviews with victims, as well as their perpetrators and consumers. As Spears traced these sex trafficking routes, she was led back to the United States where she found startling levels of American involvement in the sex trafficking industry, and the way in which U.S. demand fuels the global demand and growth of the industry. Commercial sexual exploitation of children, she found, was every bit as real and thriving in North America as in places such as the Philippines or Cambodia.
A short clip of the film and as other studies have affirmed, about 300,000 American children are at risk for being sexually exploited for commercial use and are also at risk for being trafficked into the sex industry. In the same clip from “Playground,” it is approximated that 25 percent of all sex tourists are U.S. citizens, who seek their home- land first to have sex with a child.
To put these statistics to life, the documentary traces the mystery of Michelle, a young American girl victimized by childhood sexual exploitation. Michelle became lost in the industry and has yet to be found a decade later
The film is directed, of course, by Libby Spears. The documentary is accompanied by the artwork of Japanese icon, Yoshitomo Nara set to animation. “Playground” is produced by Grant Heslov, Steven Soderbergh and a more familiar name to most, George Clooney. The NEST Foundation that helped to complete the film has hosted more than a dozen screenings across the U.S. and has reported that the documentary has made a profound impact. This impact has been reported by NEST to include the prompting of U.S. Senators to support legislation which decriminalizes child victims often arrested for prostitution, and which trains law enforcement to handle such situations of exploitation.
“Playground” will be screened at the Theatres of Georgetown this Saturday at 10a.m. as an event of the Kentucky Conference on Human Trafficking hosted by the college. Although most all of the events of this weekend are free to Georgetown students, tickets for this screening will be available through contact with Dr. Regan Lookadoo for $5. For paid conference attendees, this cost is included in the registration. The showing of “Playground” and most all other events are also available to students for NEXUS/ CEP credit. Though Director, Libby Spears is unable to make the screening this weekend, the film is sure to be eye-opening to the horrors of the child sex slavery across the globe and par- ticularly in North America. After watching the film, be sure to visit The NEST Foundation’s website, http://www.playgroundproject.com/ resources.pg for a list of organizations that are fighting this modern day terror of child slavery in which you can make a difference.